Tennis Elbow Explained

Spring is upon us, and that means that very soon we’ll be trading in our boots and toques for sunglasses and sandals as well as swapping our hockey sticks and curling brooms for golf clubs and tennis racquets. And while this means that we’ll get to spend more time outdoors enjoying the weather, it can also mean new injuries, pains and discomfort for some. One of these new potential injuries is Tennis Elbow. And believe it or not, it’s more common than you think. This is why we’ve decided to focus this month’s Absolute Advice article on Tennis Elbow— specifically what it is, how it’s caused, its symptoms and how to treat it. Continue reading below to learn everything you need to know about Tennis Elbow and to ensure it doesn’t sideline you this spring and summer.

Everything You Need to Know about Tennis Elbow

 

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is pain that is focused in, you guessed it, the elbow. Specifically, on the outside of your arm where your forearm and elbow meet. And while it affects upwards of 3% of the population, mostly adults aged 30-50, only about 5% of all Tennis Elbow cases are actually related to Tennis.

 

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

As we mentioned above, a tiny percentage of Tennis Elbow cases are actually caused by the sport of Tennis. Tennis Elbow is a prime example of a repetitive stress injury. Tennis Elbow occurs when the tendons (the tissue that connect your muscles to your bones) at the elbow end of your arm develop small tears. The scientific name for this muscle is the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. These tears are typically caused by performing repetitive motions with your arm, much like Tennis requires athletes to perform. Hence, its name.

When looking specifically at Tennis, hitting a backhand puts stress on your forearm— even further emphasized if you have poor technique or grip your racquet too tightly. And over time, this stress increases and can eventually cause the small tears that lead to Tennis Elbow.

Other sports like golf can also cause similar pain and weakness, and that is why you may hear athletes and health care professionals refer to the condition as "Golfer's Elbow" in some situations. The difference between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow is that the pain caused by Golfer’s Elbow is focused on the inside of the arm rather than the outside.

But not all cases of Tennis Elbow are caused by a sport, other causes of Tennis Elbow can include:

  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Carpentry
  • Painting
  • Cutting down trees with a chainsaw or hacksaw
  • Using a computer mouse
  • And more

Some of the professions that often experience Tennis Elbow are:

  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Butchers
  • Chefs
  • Assembly-line Workers
  • Office Desk Workers

 

What Are Some Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Unlike other conditions, Tennis Elbow doesn't have multiple symptoms. The only sign for Tennis Elbow is pain or weakness in your elbow and the area around it. But with that being said, if you experience pain or weakness performing simple tasks, it may be a sign of Tennis Elbow.

Some of these tasks include:

  • Holding a cup of coffee
  • Turning a doorknob
  • Shaking hands
  • Gripping an object (tennis racquet, hammer, pencil, etc.)
  • Gripping a steering wheel
  • Carrying grocery bags
  • And more

 

How Can I Treat Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is unique in that it can usually be treated without the need for any surgery or advanced procedures. Instead, treatment for Tennis Elbow consists of a mixture of exercise, physical therapy and non-prescription medications (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.) The exact mix is determined by your chosen health care professional who will have diagnosed your Tennis Elbow condition with the use of simple actions and in some extreme cases, an MRI.

The key to treating Tennis Elbow is to meet with your chosen health care professional as soon as you suspect you may have something more than a bruise or temporary pain. Meeting with a licensed professional, like the members of our team, will help accurately diagnose your condition and ensure you get on the road to recovery as soon as possible. In most cases, our team will prescribe a mixture of Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy to help treat your Tennis Elbow and may require the patient does homework in between visits.

If you're like us, then you're probably chomping at the bit to get back on the court or links. And unfortunately for some this season, it might mean having to deal with Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow. But with the help of this article and our team of highly-trained professionals, we hope that you now feel confident that you have what you need to treat and tackle these conditions and ensure you spend more time playing than on the sidelines. And as always, if you have any questions regarding Tennis Elbow, anything discussed above or any other pain or discomfort you may be experiencing, we encourage you to reach out to us by phone, email or on social media. A member of our team would be more than happy to chat with you and help in any way possible.

Happy spring!